I like to be busy. Almost too busy. Currently, I am teaching, running the school’s Beta Club, taking courses in order to get my gifted endorsement, helping to raise two children, AND writing my sixth novel (which is due to my editor November 1st…no pressure…perhaps, I should be working on that and not blogging, but I felt this needed to be discussed). I am one of those CRAZY teachers who after about three weeks of vacation is ready to go back. I don’t like being unproductive. I like knowing my minutes and hours and days and weeks are worth something other than binge-watching Outlander and Project Runway. I was utterly changed by great teachers, and I feel it’s my duty to do the same. So, about mid-July, I’m ready to go back and implement the billions of ideas that have to come to me in between martinis and twitter chats with my professional learning network.
I forget just how much I HATE the first few weeks of school.
Really, I hate them. For a few brief weeks in July, I forget about how hard you have to work those first few weeks. How much of a struggle it is. How defeated you come home feeling. How, suddenly, it feels like you have forgotten how to be a teacher, or maybe you never knew how to be a good one in the first place. I forget about all those things, and I WANT, NEED to go back. Maybe that’s why the reality of the first few weeks stings so much; I expected them to be awesome. The first few weeks are like that boy (we all had one in college)…the one who always treats you like a Catherine instead of a Dominique (yeah, I made a Fountainhead ref there)….the one that you keep thinking will get it together, treat you right, cause sometimes he can just be so darn good, but, in the end, you’re nothing more than an umbrella in a drought…and then the drought breaks, and you forget about how long it lasted cause for just a brief moment there is hope. That extended metaphor, my friends, is the first few weeks of school.
You think…I got this…it’s going to be awesome…I have so many cool ideas…and just like every other first week…it sucks. You want to cry. You want to quit. You want to give up. You think maybe I’m not cut out for this, and then you remember all your other first weeks, and you wonder why no one talks about this. Maybe it’s because with the arrival of standardized testing and intense evaluation tools, we have become super afraid of appearing to fail. It’s always about: what are YOU doing to help your students succeed? We preach the growth mindset, the idea it’s okay to fail because it’s about the struggle, to our students, but do we really value it in ourselves? Are we allowed to? When scores are the first thing discussed in pre-service ( let’s compare your scores to your co-worker’s, let’s compare our school’s scores to the other schools in our district, let’s compare our district’s scores to other district’s) are we really embracing the growth mindset? Suddenly, my failure to get my students to walk in a straight line the very first day without incident becomes devastating: I don’t have time to teach you how to meet my expectations…you should just know them…I have so much content to get to…they are going to show my scores to everyone next August…just do what I want you to do).
And then, about the third week, you realize why you struggled. You do have high expectations, and not every teacher does. It’s not about the scores but about you wanting to see growth in your children. You forget that not every child is born with the drive you have; some of them need to be guided towards that, shown their own self-worth. That takes time. The content. That will come. The first few weeks are about building a community, a new civilization…and Rome wasn’t built in a day. Any good community will struggle to define what it looks like, sounds like, feels like. It WILL be a struggle. And if it isn’t…maybe you aren’t doing it right. Maybe you aren’t challenging them and yourself to be the best you can be.
The first few weeks can suck…and that’s okay. In the words of Tim Gunn: Make It Work